The Stick

I love my father-in-law.

He is the kind of FIL that calls you just to get the details on your life. He is a great hug-giver and cheerleader for our family. I know he would do anything for us. I love that he lets me give him a list of things I need fixed in my home whenever he comes to visit …and he does them all WHILE organizing our tools and toolbox.

One of my favorite things that he does with the boys is tell them stories in their beds before they go to sleep. They tell stories back to him and sometimes this story time goes on for quite awhile.

His life is full of amazing stories–things he has overcome, things he has accomplished, screenplays and music he has written, trials he has triumphed over.

This is one of my favorites.



The Stick

by Poncho Redfern



I have a walking stick with the names of all my family etched in.  I hope it will someday be full with many names of children and grand children.  It has a significant impact on me every time I see it, not only because it represents my growing posterity, but because it once meant the difference between life and death for me.

It started off as a simple walking stick for my youngest daughter Haylea, found in the woods close to our home in Vancouver WA.   It pretty much stayed in the corner of her room…sometimes a prop for the many little plays performed in our home.

We lived close to Mount St. Helens, which had erupted some years earlier.  It was in our daily view as we traveled around South Eastern WA.  For years, I had a constant desire to drive up and hike the area.  Finally I had an open Saturday (and a great deal on my mind as well) and made the decision I would drive up and explore the “Area of Devastation” that still showed all the signs of this powerful natural disaster.  Just before leaving, my daughter ran out to the car with her walking stick, and insisted I should take it.  Although my first thought was I wouldn’t need it (since I had heard the trails were well marked and easily to move along) I took the stick and headed on my way.

I drove up a number of miles to a parking area from which you could hike various trails.  I chose one that followed along a beautiful river that flowed down from Mirror Lake.  The stick had become a sentimental item as I traveled, and I knew Haylea would probably ask me if I took it with me, so off I went to explore the area and clear my head of some of the personal challenges I was reflecting on.

About an hour on my way, I came to an area that overlooked the river below.   Although there were warning signs about veering from the path, I wanted to get a closer look in this one particular spot.  I could hear the rushing water below going over the huge boulders and rocks that filled the river.  I thought I had found a safe area to use to move slowly down a slight embankment and then climb up on a flat rock that overlooked the river.

Within seconds my feet slipped from underneath me and I found myself slowly sliding towards the edge, probably about 20 feet away.  I flipped over on my stomach (with my feet first) trying to slow myself down.  I would manage to stop myself, but as I tried to shimmy back up I would slide back even further.  At one point I just laid there for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do.  No one was near me or at least within proximity of hearing my panicked voice.   I clearly realized at this point if I slid over the edge I would likely be killed because of the distance down and the boulders and rocks I would surely land on.  I can still feel the fear as I recall and write these events.

Ironically, one of the major reasons for my hike was to get away and reflect on my personal selfishness that was preventing me from being the husband and father that I really knew I should be.  There was no worse feeling that I had ever experienced in my life…just moments before reflecting on the personal changes I wanted to make, and now knowing it was possibly too late to do anything about it.  I was even thinking how selfish it was to go off on my own to “fix myself” and end up dying in the process.   It is an understatement when I say I was having the most personal conversation with God I had ever had.

I could see to my right (about 10 feet away) a rocky area where I maybe could get a good grip and work my way back up.  As I tried to move in that direction I started an uncontrolled slide toward the river.  I actually thought death was eminent at that point.  As I slid down I realized “the stick” was in my hand and just before reaching the edge I raised the stick up and jammed it in the ground.  I came to a quick stop and looked down to my right and realized the stick had hit a lone rock that was sticking up a few inches above the ground a few feet from the cliff’s edge.

I laid there for a moment, afraid to even move an inch not knowing how stable the protruding rock really was.  I was at such an angle that if the rock dislodged I would certainly go over the edge.  I laid there and looked at “The Stick”…tightly griped in my right hand and firmly in the middle of this small rock.  My mind played over and over my daughter running out with the stick, and how her thoughtfulness was literally saving my life.

From that point I was able to use the stick on to push my way up and over to the right, reaching the area that I knew would provide a way for me to move up the embankment.  I took each movement very slow…knowing that a wrong move could still send me over the edge.  As I ultimately reached the safety of the flat rock and could view the river, it was even more apparent that a fall from that height (I’m guessing to be about 60 feet) to the rocky river below would have been fatal.

So, The Stick now represents to me the most important things that I lived for…my wife, children, and grandchildren.  My hope is there will be many more names to add on and that I will be around for many years to etch those names in.




  1. Whitney says

    I didn’t know this story. Very touching. I don’t think we could have asked for a better FIL.

  2. says

    Stop bringing tears to my eyes–I can’t see! Beautiful story. Maybe I’ll get to meet your FIL someday. That would be an honor!

  3. says

    An amazing man! What an honor to have him in your life and be a positive influence in your boys’ life. Everyone needs a grandfather and FIL like him.

  4. Mariruth says

    Never heard this story about my brother. He is an amazing man. So grateful for The Stick…what it preserved and what it stands for today. Love the Poncho Redfern tribe!